CHAPTER 16 – Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?

Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?“What are you watching, Grandfather?” said Michele.

With eyes fixed on the TV screen he said, “I’m improving my English.”

Tony Soprano, a mafia boss, was meeting with friends at his bar, Ba-Da-Bing. One of the members of his gang fretted over a complicated career decision, and Tony offered wise counsel about achieving happiness through the execution of familial obligations.

“Ah!” said Grandfather at the episode’s end. “Very Confucian. And how is Dr. Melfy?”

“Just so you know, Grandfather, Dr. Melfy is a psychiatrist on that show. I’m an executive coach.”

“Yes, I know. And how is Dr. Michele?”

“I’m OK,” she said. “I’ve been doing interviews for a client and he’s getting some pretty harsh messages from the people around him. I wonder how he’s going to react when he reads the report.”

“What kind of messages?”

“The picture that’s coming back is that he’s very bright, very driven to achieve, and that he pushes people too hard. He pushes himself way too hard.”

“Why does he push?” asked Grandfather.

“He prides himself on having all the answers, and now he’s got a big unmanageable project that’s more complex than anything he’s dealt with in the past. It’s like he’s grabbed the tail of a large animal that he can’t tame and he can’t let go.”

“That reminds me of the story about monkeys and how to trap them. I know I’ve told you the story before,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “I’d like to hear it again.”

“Why don’t you tell me? How do you trap a monkey, Dr. Michele?”

“You find a tree with a hole in it, a hole just big enough for the monkey to get his hand into. And then you put a peanut in the hole. The monkey reaches in, grabs the peanut, but now his clenched fist is too big to pull out of the hole. So, he’s trapped, because he can’t let go of his prize,” said Michele.

“Yes. There is a wonderful, spacious forest all around him, and he is trapped in a tiny prison of his wants. There are birds, lizards, flowers, magnificent trees, and he can enjoy none of it,” said Grandfather. “What peanut does your client grasp?”

“He wants so badly to succeed, and he insists on doing it his way,” said Michele.

“And what will you do for him?”

“Because his mind is so strong and because he is scared now that he might have heart problems, I’m showing him things to relax his body-mind. Maybe, if he can interrupt his angry responses, he can make wiser choices.”

“Good to start there. It will make him feel better and he will make some progress that way, but it won’t cure the disease,” said Grandfather.

“What would you do?”

“He needs to dissolve his small self and live in the awareness of his true Self. Until this is done, hope and fear will continue to disturb his mind, and even success will not bring peace. As Lao Tsu says, (Grandfather recited in Chinese. This is a translation).

How can success and failure be called equal ailments?
Because a man thinks of the personal body as self.
When he no longer thinks of the personal body as self,
Neither failure nor success can ail him.
One who knows his lot to be the lot of all other men
Is a safe man to guide them,
One who recognizes all men to be members of his own body
Is a sound man to guard them.

“That’s how we need our leaders to be,” he said. He sat back in his chair, and looked at his granddaughter. His eyes softened.

“That’s pretty advanced, Grandfather,” she said. “I’m just trying to get him to stop yelling at people.”


“If stupidity got us into this mess, why can’t it get us out?” — Will Rogers.

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CHAPTER 1 – IT Executive Loses it Over Love Seat in Driveway

Dragons At Work CHAPTER 1 - IT Executive Loses it Over Love Seat in DrivewayDan slammed on his brakes. He stopped just inches from the front end of the truck leaving his driveway. Three Krispy Kreme donuts and the remains of a large coffee mingled on the floor of the front seat of his new BMW 335i.

Dan got out and stormed to the driver’s side of the truck.  Helping Hand, Inc. was painted on the door.

“I thought you were here to pick up the furniture,” Dan barked.

The driver rolled down his window.

“Say again?”

“The furniture. You were supposed to pick it up,” said Dan.

“Yeah, I was, but I can’t take that piece.”

“Why not?” he demanded.

“Because it doesn’t meet our standards.”

Dan looked in the direction of the love seat.  “What are you talking about?”

The driver climbed out of his truck and walked toward the love seat, motioning for Dan to follow. Running his hand along the frayed upholstery on the back he said, “You got a cat or something?”

“What I’ve got is a piece of furniture that’s in perfectly good condition.  I called your office.  I described it.  I scheduled a pick up, and now it’s your turn to do your job, so we can both get on with our lives.”

“Sir, would you please move your vehicle so I can exit your driveway?”

“Would I what?” said Dan.

“I think you heard me,” said the driver.

“Yeah, I heard you.  My car stays right there until you load that piece onto your truck.”

Looking at Dan, the driver sized him up.  Five-nine, maybe 200 pounds, a big gut on him.  I could take him out, ten seconds tops. But what about the cops and assault charges?  I’ve been down that road.   Maybe I could get him to take the first shot.  No.  Better get in the truck and let him cool off.

“Did you ever think of taking an anger management course?” the driver said through the half-closed window of his cab.

Dan lurched back to his car, pulled the door shut with rattling force, and grabbed his cell phone.  He gnashed through numbers and menus until a receptionist at Helping Hand Incorporated cheerfully responded.

“Helping Hand. This is Deborah.  How may I help you?”

“I scheduled a pick-up for today,” said Dan.  “Your driver is here and refuses to take a perfectly good love seat.  I want to talk to someone who can order him to load the goddamn piece onto his goddamn truck.”

“I wish I could help you sir, but the manager is the only one who can do that and he isn’t in on Saturdays.  You know, our drivers are trained to make these kinds of decisions.”

“Well, he’s making the wrong decision.”

“Excuse me, Sir.  I have another call coming in.  Can you hold please?”

Looming in his rearview mirror, Dan saw a police car glide to a stop.  The officer stepped out of his cruiser and walked toward Dan’s car. Dan got out to meet him.

“Is there a problem, Sir?” the officer asked Dan.

“I’m the one who called, Officer,” said the driver, climbing out of his truck.

Dan took a step toward the officer. “I’m trying to get this guy from Helping Hand to take that love seat, but it doesn’t seem to meet his high aesthetic standards.”

The policeman looked at the driver, then at Dan.

“I’ll show you, Officer,” the driver said.

The three of them walked over to the love seat and the driver pointed to the frayed fabric.

“I’m not supposed to take furniture in this condition,” said the driver.

“Look,” said Dan, “it’s a perfectly good love seat.  We kept its back against the wall.  I just took it from our living room this morning.”

The driver turned toward Dan and said, “I’m sorry you had to live that way.”

For a moment no one spoke.

Addressing Dan, the officer said, “Sir, I’m sorry, but it’s his decision to make. Move your car, please, and let him drive away.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Dan.

“No, I’m not. Move your car.”

The officer turned toward his cruiser just as a smile broke across his face.

Dan mashed his tire rim into the curb as he backed up.  When the truck and cruiser vanished, he stood alone in his driveway, looking at the love seat.  Against the black asphalt, it looked forlorn and hideously pink.

He wrestled it from the ground and balanced it on his thighs, his knees bent. Lifting it higher, he hobbled to the side of the garage and dropped it under the eave.  His hands trembled, his chest felt tight, and he wanted more air than he could get into his lungs.

Click here to read Chapter 2.

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